While episode 8 of Yellowstone meted out justice through the barrel of the gun, it was at the dinner table where the story’s emotional action took place.
With Kayce, Monica, and Tate out of the lodge, John is once again alone. Last episode, he more or less ordered Beth, Rip, and Carter to move in and make his dinners less lonely—even though once dinner starts, John immediately regrets having anyone there, preferring to eat in peace. Put a laugh track over the dinner scenes and Yellowstone is basically a sitcom.
But the dinner table does have meaning. Throughout the seasons, the occupants of the table have served as something of a barometer for John’s neediness. As his sole character drive remains keeping the ranch in the family, his greatest struggle has always been keeping the family in the ranch. When the dinner table is full, John is content, believing in the continuation of the family, the land. When the dinner table empties, he gets especially melancholy, drinking, riding across the ranch by himself. His attempts at filling the table by bullying his kids into living at home seem to underscore his character’s own conflict: his actions are never quite aligned with his intended ends.
In episode 8, we get a small window into where all this dinner table business came from—and what may be driving John that no one knows about.
Let’s dive in.
We Get It: The Dinner Table is a Motif
The episode opens with a scene from the past. While there’s no date shown, the setting alludes to sometime shortly after the previous season 4 flashback, 1881, when John’s father was a child, watching his own father parley with an encamped tribe. (We assume these flashbacks will be relevant for the Yellowstone spinoff series 1883.)
John Sr., probably around 12, sits at the supper table with his sister and his mother. They pray for the safe return of John Sr.’s father, James, who appears to be a sheriff and is out pursuing a band of horse thieves. Margaret Dutton scolds her son for praying for justice through bloodshed, saying how one cannot pray for violence. We then see James kill all but one of the thieves, who he then ties up. James, however, was shot in the pursuit and returns home (somehow after not treating the wound all day) only to dramatically leave bloody handprints on Margaret’s nice porch. His fate is unknown.
From one dinner table to the next. Later in the episode, Rip, Beth, and Carter join John at the family table where an expected fight takes place—Beth leaving in a huff after John asks why she’s always so crass at the table. Rip pursues her into the next room where Beth explains why she’s always hated the family table: it represents a façade of family values. She would rather stop pretending. Rip suggests they eat at another table, which seems to cure all of Beth’s jadedness. John, changing tables for the first time, doesn’t seem to care. Too bad they didn’t think of that solution earlier.
Market Equities Vs. Their Own Idiocy
Summer Higgins and her band of merry protestors have occupied the site of the airfield. Their presence has somehow halted construction—even though construction was already hauled because of the archeological discovery (and also Rainwater’s lawsuit, although neither of these things seem to be in play anymore, so somehow, it’s all up to Summer now). Market Equities faces a PR problem when news cameras begin covering the protest and shielding protestors from aggressive law enforcement tactics.
Beth, inexplicably allowed to advise on what is clearly a situation of invested interest, suggests kicking the media out and then aggressively arresting everyone when the cameras have gone. Caroline Warner inexplicably agrees with this strategy, seeing no reason to doubt Beth. The news people are removed.
Except Beth actually tells the reporters to stick around. So when the aggressive law enforcement raid takes place, the cameras are there to capture it. While Montana reports the event as lawless hippies getting what they deserve, national media, Beth and Caroline suspect, won’t be as kind. To speed up that shitstorm, Beth phones someone from the New York Times. And that’s how Beth plans to save the Yellowstone? Who knows.
How Many Times Can We Say the Word “Cowboy” in a Scene?
We’re back in Texas for another 5-minute-long music video, featuring lots of tranquil shots of men lassoing horses and riding horses and dismounting from horses. Also, Jimmy—who’s now overcome all neurological damage and forgotten about Mia—and the horse doctor—who doesn’t think the giant “Y” branded across Jimmy’s chest is a red flag—they hook up.
Kayce’s Dances with Wolves
Remember last season when Kayce spent several minutes of screen time staring at wolves, tracking wolves, telling Tate all about wolves? Remember when he and Monica hooked up and let the wolf watch? Well, the wolf is back, and Kayce wants to go kill it again. He calls Mo who tells him not to kill it. Monica then comes out onto the porch where Kayce is considering killing the wolf to tell him that she’s pregnant. We’re not sure what the connection between Kayce and wolves are yet, but we have a bad feeling about it. Whatever you do, Kayce, don’t shoot that wolf.
Justice John Dutton Style
On their way into town, John and Rip get a call from Jamie. Jamie has decided to run for governor and oppose John. He, Garrett Randall, and Christina agree that John will likely back down and instead endorse a puppet candidate. Jamie wants to meet to discuss how to civilly run against each other. John tells Jamie he knows where to find him and then hangs up.
The reason for John’s trip into town is to meet with Sheriff Haskell and discuss how to kill Riggins, who John is convinced is still the sole person responsible for the attack last season. When they approach the diner where Haskell is to meet them, Rip notices something strange: no one seems to be eating. The two back away from the window, arm themselves, and sneak around the back.
Turns out there’s a good old fashion Tarantino-style diner hold-up going on, with Haskell outmatched against four gunmen (because obviously the best spot in town to rob with that much firepower is a diner). Rip and John recklessly enter the diner, shooting across the hostages and managing to kill all the attackers without collateral damage.
Except for one casualty.
Haskell is shot and soon dies after John sits with him. The death bookends an episode that opened with an unclear fate for John’s grandfather, another sheriff. Symbolically, Haskell’s death may signal a coming lawlessness for future episodes. While Haskell had taken John’s side before, there were other moments where he remained an impartial arbitrator. With outside forces beginning to close in on John, Haskell’s death may initiate a different form of justice. And by that we mean Rip.
Josh St. Clair
Joshua St Clair is an editorial assistant at Men’s Health Magazine.
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